Monday, July 11, 2016

one trip around the sun

Being adopted in America

It's been an entire year since Alex and Yana (legally) entered into our family.  A year since Adam and I flew home together, with our teenagers in the row beside us from the Moscow Airport. A year since their shoes touched American soil. A year since we sat in customs and they applied for their permanent residency card at LAX international airport.

I have learned a few things over the past year...
They are:
1. Choose joy.
2. Comparison is a joy killer
3.Don't miss the Glory of God

Choose joy

I find myself the most unhappy when I feel like I was wronged.
I sat in my husband's office today, I was a nice wife and had brought him lunch. 
I caught myself complaining to him about everything on my mind. He just nodded and listened to me. But after a good 5 minutes, I thought to myself, just shut up. So I did. I think he appreciated that :)
Instead of complaining, I choose joy. I talked about good things, without the undertow of bad or annoyed. Our conversation change for the better after that it usually does when I become thankful.
So, how do I teach that to kids? How do I teach them to just shut up and be grateful. To think about the good in life.
How do you tell a 17 year old that the car you drive is not important or a 7 year old that the doll she has does not need to be an American Girl. How can I explain to my 5 year old that she will not always be invited to every birthday party or my 13 year old that a flip phone works just like a iPhone.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

They see what others have and think that it will bring them happiness. And the silly thing is, I do the same thing. If only I had land, or a bigger house, then maybe we would all be happy.
It's a lie. That's not what makes us happy. Joy is a choice. Joy is content. Joy is recognizing the blessings and being thankful even in the hardest of situations.

Comparison kills joy.

In a world filled with social media and everyone keeping up the Jones', it is hard not to compare. The exotic vacations, the new cars, the clean houses, the fancy food, and the mommy-daughter time splattered all over your Facebook, twitter, Instagram for all to see. Although I know I should be happy for them, something starts in my brain taking away MY happy. Thinking wow that's so fun, wish I could do that.
EW! Stop it! Be happy for someone and move on! Those pages are highlights. No one posts the waking up to a mound of dog poo all over the shag carpet for the second day in the row (true story).
Comparison kills joy. I need to remember no one posts the poo.

Don't miss the Glory of God

When I value what the world values, I miss the glory of God and what He is doing in my life.
Yes, I love things and I love my family, but those things are God's, so I'll trust him with them. Giving it to him all the good, praising him.
While I am at it, I guess I'll bring him the bad too. The yuck I was complaining to Adam about in his office. The stuff I only tell that one person, I want to just tell it to God.
God is sovereign and he uses me for His glory, I just need to make sure I am listening.

It's easy for me to complain. It's easy for me to want what others have. And it's super easy to just go on with my hurried day to day, not acknowledging my Savior and my Creator.

But instead, I am going to choose God.

or at least continue to try to

One trip around the sun as a mom of 4. Oh how all of our lives have been remodeled, reshaped and remolded. He just keeps chipping away at us.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Race Day

The hot dry air hit my face early Valentine's Day morning as I exited my car. Two Venti Starbucks in hand, one for me and one for Lisa. It was 6:15 am and the sun had barely began to peak over the surrounding hills of  Walnut Grove Park, but I could already feel the weather was unusually warm for a mid-February day.

This time last year, so many people were serving us. It felt strange and almost wrong. We were not worthy of this kind of love. These kind of blessings. Why us? I questioned.

I heard the words "Thank you" fall from Lisa's mouth almost a trillion times on Sunday, knowing what she was feeling...I just smiled, as to say it's ok.

I stood in those running shoes only a short year ago. It's ok.  I was up at 5 am last Valentine's Day too. It's ok.  I fundraised like a mad woman last year. It's ok. I pleaded with God in my prayers. It's ok.

I hated every moment of fundraising for my kids, but serving others has become a large part of  my walk with Christ and is so much more fun.

An international adoption is a ton of money.  It is a paralyzing amount of money.  Money the average person doesn't have just sitting around when God calls you to adopt. Money that seems nearly impossible to imagine, even though you are desperate to free a child from an institution.  Desperate to give them a life, a mom, a dad, a grandma, a grandpa, aunts, uncles, siblings.  You see the amount as so big, and too much.

But our God is bigger than so big and He is much more than too much. God puts people in our lives and plans in our hearts. He gives us a path that we follow, He gives us guidance and determination.


Last year, as we cleaned up our Faith Hope Love 5k, Adam and I decided to continue it every year. Valentine's Day is a day we celebrate love. We decided to sponsor another family adopting each year. To give, like we had been given. To love like our kids had been loved.

The Molnar family is a family whose kiddos went to Adam's School. They have 3 boys, and the oldest was a student in Adam's 5th grade class 3 years ago.  We would occasionally see them at church and catch up with them as the years continued to pass.

That is until last spring, Lisa had contacted me to talk about hosting...
God blessed them with a 13 year old girl, Masha. They shared their life with her this past summer but their intention was never to adopt.
It was only after she went home, back to Ukraine, that they knew what they had to do. If you like to know more about the Molnar's Adoption please click here, or if you feel called to give please click here. (All donations are tax deductible.)

Adam and the girls came around 7am to help put the final touches on the 3.11 mile course. Lily helped draw arrows in chalk, while Yana organized t-shirts and sweatshirts, and Elliot guarded the donuts.
Enthusiasm filled the warm air as the runners began to arrive. Seeing many of the same beautiful faces as last year, and even more new ones gave me a sense of joy.

The race horn blew a little after 8:20 and it started. Runners in the front and walkers in the back, all wearing a grey shirt with the words "Faith, Hope, Love." Volunteers at their stations waiting to cross runners at the street, or pass out waters to those who needed it.

Last year, Alex and Yana were only a distant dream. They were in Ukraine scarcely having 2 meals a day. Enduring verbal abuse from caretakers and teachers, hoping their life would one day finally change.

On Sunday, Alex, Yana, Lily and Elliot ran the race. The Klimas family kids, I am one proud mommy.

Yana ran with her sisters, encouraging them to keep going, telling them they could do it. Holding her heavy four year old sister when she said she could not take one more step or just decided to sit down in the middle of the course.
Alex began the race with the runners in the front.

More than one hundred and seventy people ran or walked on Valentine's Day. They came to show support for an amazing family. They came to show support of an amazing walk of FAITH. They came to give HOPE for a thirteen year old girl. And they came to celebrate LOVE for a great family.


Last year, Alex and Yana were orphans but this year they are my son and daughter. Last year, they lived in an orphanage, this year they participated in bringing Masha home. Last year, Alex didn't get to run, but this year he won the race.


Maybe Masha will win next year. :)

"And now these three remain, faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13







Sunday, February 7, 2016


I was told sometime after we first adopted that things will calm down around the 6 month mark.

Well, 6 months came and went, and we still had one child hiding in a closet and another running away. When there was any type of correction, a complete shut down happened. Some days really small things would set them off. We could see it coming, we would walk on egg shells in our own home in fear of when and what would be the trigger.
7 months was much of the same.

Alex ran away again the day before Christmas Eve. Yana slept on the couch waiting to see if he came back this time. Lily and Elliot cried and questioned, why does he do that?
The police were called again, and Adam and I waited until 2am for him to show up. Just the normal night of remorse followed, tears with the reassurance that family stays.
I decided to stop blogging.  I stopped telling people what was going on. I stopped sharing stories of what was happening inside the walls of my home. I stopped retelling the bad, because it wasn't helping.
I ended up quitting every extra-curricular activity I was involved in, including the nonprofit I started with my friends.  Elliot's ukulele lessons, Lily's soccer, stopped, just for the time being, until the dust settles.

I decided I would start choosing joy. I would start praying more. I would start reading more. I would start focusing on showing the kids God's love. I would start seeking His guidance, instead of trying to do it on my own. I would start blessing others. I would start being purposeful about my parenting.

And if I couldn't be that person, then I would hide in my own closet until I was ready to be joyful.
A Mommy-timeout.

A switch flipped, or so it seems, sometime in between Christmas and New Years....a new us. A more purposeful us began to happen.
I am writing today to let you all know, the blog is going to change. I no longer want to critique my life.
I quit. I want to start to focus out side the walls of my house instead of inward.
It will no longer be me telling stories about the family's adjustment period. Instead, I will share ideas on how to spread joy. Things we do at home to raise kids that love God and love others.
Purposeful parenting.
The thing is, I'm not an expert at this. Like you, I am figuring it out as I go. So please feel free to share what you are doing. Let's change the world by being intentional with our time, love, and friendship. Live a life uncommon, a journey for God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.
Galatians 5:22

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

5 things at Christmas

During this time of the year, I struggle to remember to keep the main thing, the main thing.
Why do we celebrate Christmas? Why is this season so magical? What lessons do I want to pass on to my children?

There is no Christmas in Ukraine, at least Yana and Alex never heard of it. Their experiences are made up of the few American movies they have watched.

So many questions led up to this season...and with Christmas less than a week away the excitement stirs with in them and the questions flow.

"Do you really get a Christmas Tree?"
"You get presents?"
"They go under the tree?"
"What kind of presents?"
"Who is Santa Claus?"
"When do we open the presents"
"Why do we give presents?"

Never did they ask me about Jesus, they had no idea that He is the reason we celebrate Christmas. They didn't know the main thing, but how could they?
What they know is what is in the media, what is portrayed in movies.  

Theses are the 5 things we have learned to do during Christmas to try to keep the main thing, the main thing.

1. Give gifts with meaning.
We limit gifts in our home. Mom and dad give you 4 gifts on Christmas Day. That is it.
  1. Something you WANT
  2. Something you NEED
  3. Something you WEAR
  4. Something you READ
I love the ability to be creative within the categories, for instance this year, Yana is getting perfume for her something she wears. (Don't tell her.)
It also makes "the sock and underwear" gift a little more valued when it's labeled with "something you desperately need."
My kiddos believe in Santa, so he comes too and brings one gift, and fills the stockings with their favorite fruit, and toiletries, like new tooth brushes and fancier shampoo than I would buy.
I know that before we began this tradition, my 6 year old, Lily, was a terror on Christmas. It became less about the gift and more about the mass quantity. Ripping and shredding gifts that were not even hers.
Since implementing this tradition, as a family (me included),  we better understand the idea of gratefulness. It is less about what was on sale and more about the main thing.

2. Truth in the Tinsel.
This is a curriculum by an amazing woman named Amanda White. She has a blog
and sells  her curriculum. Everyday during advent, their is a scripture reading that relates to the story of the birth of Jesus. My kiddos listen for the key word hidden in the scripture ready to scream it out as I share God's word with them. There is a craft that goes with the reading too.  
That being said, sometimes this family skips the craft or reads two days in one day because the kids fell asleep in the car and were put in bed in the clothes they wore all day.
Adam made me an advent calendar last year out of an old pallet. I hang the key words on the calendar for each day (instead of making a chain), and write the scripture reading on the paper so I don't have to look it up.
It takes a little time to set up but after November 30, everything is done and all I do is grab a piece of paper off the clothes pin.

It keeps my entire family in God's word together (almost) every day until Christmas. Helping us all remember why we celebrate this holiday and keeping the main thing, the main thing.

3. GIVE.
Give. Give. Give. This is something we try to do all year. Give financially, give time and give love. I want my kiddos to give with a happy heart. I want them to grow up being loving people that want to serve others. The only way I know how to teach them this, is to do it.
We brought another 5 gifts to church last week for a toy drive and outreach that was happening in Oceanside. I brought Alex and Elliot with me when we picked out the toys.
I put a Disney Cars scooter into the cart, and Alex asked me "why you buy so much?" Looking at the price tag. I tell him it's in the budget and not to worry (Dave Ramsey).
Two families came together to give 3 sisters a Christmas
I would not hesitate to buy that for my own child if they wanted it for Christmas, and, as long as it is budgeted into my "give money" I don't see the harm in buying nice things for kiddos that otherwise would not have it. (The key is budgeting in money to give to people. I know Christmas can be stressful and expensive, but that's another blog.) I think it is important for my kids to see the sacrifices we make to help others.  Sometimes they hear that the toy they want is not in the budget, but the one for the child that needs us is.

4.Make it.
I have a crafty husband who likes to make things. I have an artistic son that is mastering his craft.
That being said, we make a lot of our own decorations.
My Christmas tree is not something
you would find in a magazine or a store. My tree is filled with ornaments made by my kids or things given to me and Adam by our students. It has Adam's grandma's handmade bells made out of yarn and it is filled with pictures from each year.
In addition to the tree, my husband and Alex turned some pallets into the most amazing Christmas display for our neighborhood light contest. We didn't win, but had the most fun watching Veggie Tales and Charlie Brown Christmas in the garage and spending time as a family. Answering questions about the main thing.


5. The kids buy gifts
I do not just give my kids money. They earn it. Each kid has a job daily that they have to complete  to get paid. Pay day is Monday and with their money they are expected to separate it into 3 categories. Give, save and spend. 
For the past few months they have been saving to buy Christmas presents. Alex took charge and combined 5 dollars each to buy dad a gift he wants (that's a lot considering Alex can only make $7 dollars and the girls $3.50 a week). I took the kids to the Dollar Tree for them to buy for one another. The joy of giving to the people they love from their hard earned money.  The excitement of wanting to come home to wrap it immediately and place it under the tree. I am so blessed to see their giving hearts.
I know they are more excited about giving to one another than getting. (At least I hope they are :)

In doing this, I am hoping they see the that the world is so much bigger than them, and we are called to give to others.  To serve others. To keep the main thing, the main thing. 
Our family is far from perfect, but Adam and I have decided to make a road map showing the kids what is most important and then living for that. Keeping the main thing, the main thing this holiday season and all year long.  

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Christmas Child

The courtyard at church is filled with activities, information and ways to make a difference. One tradition we always do around this time of year is Operation Christmas Child. You know, the red and green boxes that you fill with toys and crayons and socks. The first time, we filled the stuff from the dollar spot at Target or Dollar Tree. It didn't cost much and it didn't take much effort but we knew we were doing the right thing. 
Filled with goodies we dropped it off at church and knew it was shipped somewhere around the world. 

Really, we have always done it because it's fun. Period. Not much more thought went into it. 
Just something nice to do.

See our tradition is, every family member gets a box to fill up. Last year, we began to be a bit more purposeful in our giving. I made a box for a 10-14 year old boy. I bought a deflated soccer ball and a pump and placed it in the box with other items like pencils with a sharpener, toiletries and necessities. We registered our boxes online and dropped them off at church (if you do it that way you can track your box to see where it goes). Done. It felt good but, it was just a box. Right?
Today, like we always do the first week of November, we picked up our boxes in the church courtyard. This year I grabbed 6.

Elliot, Lily and I decided to find a spot on the wet grass while we waited for everyone to come from the different places on campus. While we listen to the live concert outside the coffee shop, we fold the boxes.
Yana strolls up and with a curious face looks at what we are doing. Before I can explain what these strange shoe boxes are or what we are planning to do with them...she says "I know that" in her deep Ukrainian accent.
We all look up at her from our sitting position. "I got that box" she says so matter of fact.
"You've seen theses boxes before?"
Just then Alex comes to meet us... but he's not looking at us. He is staring at the 3 boxes that we have already folded that lay in the grass. 

He doesn't say anything, but instead tries to remember a memory.
He starts talking. I have learned that when Alex starts to talk about the past, I shut up and let him run with the line.
"I never got presents, never got anything for my birthday, for nothing. But I got this box when I was little...7?" "Yana too."

Then it hit me. It is so much more than something fun, or the "right" thing to do. Alex remembered it was a family from Germany that gave him the box. He remembered what was in it. Last year, Alex and Yana were the kids that could have received the box, this year they are the ones making them for others.

Alex smiled his handsome smile and Yana grabbed as many boxes as she could carry and we all walked to the car as a family.

A family in Germany went to the store. They filled a shoe-box. They filled a box with necessities, and toys. They prayed for a child. 
The box was sent to a small child in Ukraine. A small seven-year-old Ukrainian orphan received the box. Received the prayers. Received the blessings. 
That child is now my child. How thankful I am for that family that loved my child, before I knew him. How thankful I am that they gave him his first and only gift he ever received as a young boy.

I don't know what that family prayed for, but I do know that the child is no longer an orphan. I know that he will now be filling a box of his own. I know that he will be thinking carefully what he places in his box. I know he will send a box to a child somewhere around the world. 

Maybe these shoe boxes we fill today will go to an orphan. Maybe the child in the orphanage that receives our box has a family ready to choose them too. 
God has a plan for each box, for each of his children. Blessing the hands that grab their first and possibly only gift. 
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:3-10

Something that I thought was "just a box" has become so much more. A lighthearted tradition transformed. Now seeing the power that a single box can bring gives this tradition more meaning.


Sunday, November 1, 2015


Tradition: Each family member designs and carves a pumpkin. Totally worth the 3 dollars per person, giving every person a sense of accomplishment and independence for even the smallest of carvers. 
Adam and I celebrated being together for 12 years this month. I met him when I was 21, and over the time we have developed a road map of traditions we do during the holidays. Some of the Trutanich's and some of the Klimas' mix together to become one new family; an extension of the two.  After these 12 years we have many, many traditions that we celebrate without even discussing them. It's just what WE do.

Tradition: We love to decorate, from saving milk jugs for a month to make ghost that line the fence to creepy monsters in the front yard

But now, there is a new dimension, a unique aspect that is so wonderfully uncommon. Alex and Yana have joined our family and during this time they are beginning to experience those 12 years in the making. 
Yana and Alex's first pumpkin design.
Things that Lily and Elliot have grown up with, Alex and Yana have not. Things as simple as decorating their  home with spider webs and scarecrows, or craving pumpkins or Halloween carnivals, or trick or treating are all new.
We have the perfect neighborhood for trick or treating with all our family friends 

Going to our church carnival to get a jump start on the candy collecting and sugar high a few days before Halloween (just one of the 3 carnivals we went to  this year)
Beauty is beginning to boil. The wide eyes and humbled hearts of two children that lacked traditions because they moved orphanages too many times, or because they they never received a gift, or because they stop asking for things due to basic needs not being met, or because they had no one to care about them are embracing this time of the year.  
Tradition: We have a Halloween potluck where we serve tortilla soup 
Tradition: we take a picture of all the kids in costume in the front of the house. So cool to see how we keep multiplying.

A statement that was shared plays over and over in my ears."I don't know love, I from orphanage....I know angry, I know sad, I know mad." 
But I have hope.
"But hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he gave us." 
Romans 5:5

There is some much beauty and love shown in the Holidays. From someone asking "what do you want to be for Halloween?" to actually having a family to make it happen. 

Yes, there are struggles. Yes, there are bumps and bruises. 
Alex's costume, he really got into character :)
It's hard to be a mom to kids that don't know how to love. I pour into them and get little to no outward signs of appreciation back. I turn to the Lord and a ton of sarcasm to get me through the week, day, hour. But then I hear, thank you or I am sorry or I see the smallest smile on their lips and my mommy heart melts and I know God is continuing to guide me how to parent these kids. 

"Then you will call upon me to come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
Jeremiah 29:12-13  

God is so good, and His healing love is enough. I am blessed to be a part of His plan. I am blessed to be a witness of how He changes lives, how He changes hearts, how He shows love.
Tradition: Couple costume

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A normal day

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
James 1:2-4

Why does life always feel so chaotic?
The alarm sounds at 5:50 am, which I have been meaning to set earlier, my tired body rolls over to notice Adam is already up and has started his day. I see him ironing in the bathroom, but the glare of the shining light is too much and I close my eyes again to try to adjust.
There was a time in our marriage when mornings were sacred, but with two little girls in pink pajamas sprawled out laying side ways across our white bed sheets, those days are long gone. Hopefully that we will revisit that time again soon. They won't be sleeping with us at 25, right? Right???
It's 6:45 and I hear Adam shuffling Yana out the door for zero period. She has 8 tardies and her "I no care" attitude is a hard way to start the morning. From her drop off he goes straight to work. I won't see him for at least 12 hours, but sometimes longer.  This morning I am lucky to get a "have a good day, I love you" to him before he shuts the front door.
At 7 am, I wake up Alex. He doesn't say a word to me. I tell him "good morning." As I make lunches, He pours a bowl of cheerios and I hand him some of the melon. He acknowledges me. I wonder what he is thinking as he sits and eats at our yellow table facing the back yard.
My thoughts are interrupted.
"Mommy!" I hear from upstairs, I begin the hunt for different socks because Elliot says the first ones I grabbed are bumpy in her shoes. I pull back packs out of the hall closet noticing her napping sheets were never washed. I stick them in the dryer with a bounty sheet for 20 minutes. I brush hair while two little girls are eating their cereal.
Everyone in the car by 7:42...go go go.
Time to drop off.
First Alex,"have a good day"  I say as he lightly shuts the door, I lean over the passenger seat as he walks away to slam it. He turns with a look like he did something wrong. I wink and wave, and get a small smile in return.
Then Elliot, it's time for preschool, this drop off is always my favorite. I get a 10 second hug from that one and an I love you too much before she breaks away from my embrace to chase her friends around the playground.
Finally Lily's turn.  I drop Lily off at school. The butterfly covered lunchbox that has her name embroidered on it, packed with cubed melon and tofu is held tightly in her left hand. The thought "I used to write her notes on her napkin" flows into my mind. I have to stop...don't focus on that.
'Remember this', I think to myself. She got out of the car and I see her smile back at me. She is wearing navy blue shorts today, the ones with an adjustable waste, and a shirt with fish and red trim. She has her hair in a low braid and she is missing four teeth all in the front. I would like to believe she has no pain or worry in the world, but I know that's not true. I can't protect her from the friend that makes fun of her lunch box or the sister that ignores her. But I can assure her that she has a mommy and daddy that love her too much and have since the day she was born.
8:45 and all is calm. I look around at my home...4 baskets of laundry piled onto the coach, dirty breakfast dishes in the sink with the remaining milk still sitting in them. Clean dishes in the dish washer waiting to be unloaded. 2 piles of tests I need to correct, adoption paper work that needs to be filed with the court and friends texting me to see what I am doing today.
Today would be a good day for a break down, no kids to see it. But I don't have time.
I'll just do the dishes, fold some laundry, grade some tests and smile because today is a day that I am alive. And I am loved. And I am blessed.
Today is a day that God has entrusted me with four lives. Broken lives.
Today is a day I am going to choose to smile because my family is under one roof. Because I have the most amazing friends and the most incredible village.
Today I am choosing to make the world better and to give my worries to God. Today I am choosing happiness, peace, grace and love.